Democrats to press Ohio voting probe

/ Source: The Associated Press

A Democratic congressman and Jesse Jackson said Wednesday they will continue to investigate complaints of election irregularities in Ohio, but they won’t call for a delay in the official certification process.

Ohio officials declared President Bush the winner of the state’s 20 electoral votes Monday after the ballot count showed that he won the state by 118,775 votes over Democratic Sen. John Kerry. The Electoral College meeting is scheduled for Monday, despite a recount starting as early as next week.

Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, convened a hearing to examine accusations of voting problems in Ohio. Many of the election complaints, such as disparities in vote totals and a shortage of voting machines in Democratic-leaning urban precincts, have already been cited and explained.

Vow to examine each problem
Conyers promised that Democrats on the committee will review each problem even though the Government Accountability Office has said it will study the 2004 election. He plans to hold a session in Columbus, Ohio.

“The legal challenges cannot stop. There should be a debate in Congress about what happened,” said Jackson, a former Democratic presidential candidate.

He brushed aside questions about whether a delay in Bush’s inauguration next month was warranted.

Meanwhile, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Administration Committee, said he will hold hearings on the election early next year.

“Election reform is a serious issue that requires serious, bipartisan examination and debate. It does not deserve what we are seeing today — partisan attacks and unsubstantiated claims disguised as fact in a faux hearing,” Ney said, referring to the  Conyers’ hearing.

‘Ohio had a great election’
Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell was invited to the forum but did not attend.

“Ohio had a great election. There were issues with long lines but I think you’ll find the entire country experienced delays,” spokesman Carlo LoParo said, dismissing reports of Election Day irregularities.

Kerry issued a statement in response to Wednesday’s session, saying he supports an investigation into reported problems to ensure there are no doubts in future elections.

“It’s critical that we investigate and understand any and every voting irregularity anywhere in our country, not because it would change the outcome of the election but because Americans have to believe that their votes are counted in our democracy,” said the Massachusetts senator.

The Kerry campaign is supporting an Ohio recount sought by two third-party candidates.